Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My First Ride

All this warm spring weather makes me want to ride...

Ever since I was a child I have wanted a bike, in fact I can't remember ever not wanting one. Which is surprising since no one in my family had one at the time. It was just always something I had said I wanted. By the time I learned that money didn't magically reproduce in Mom and Dad's wallet, I knew that I wanted my bike to be a Harley. Riding in the back of Dad's '34 Ford Roadster, I would check out every single Harley that drove by. As I got older, I realized that the bikers sometimes thought I was checking them out. And to be fair, I was, to some degree. But it was the bike I was interested in.

My Uncle got a Fat Boy for his 50th birthday, and for some reason I didn't want to be a burden to him, so I didn't ask for a ride. Not quite understanding that a biker will generally look for any excuse to ride. When my sister meet her now husband, I was thrilled to find out that he had a bike. But it wasn't a Harley, so I found myself debating with him, over which bike was better every chance I got. Eventually I got a ride out of the deal. Well, showing off for his future sister in law attracted a cop, cutting our ride short. Providing a story for years to come on how I got him out of five tickets. That was our one and only ride.

Somehow, my Dad got a minibike and he let me drive it. Big mistake. I almost made it to the neighbors driveway before falling over. Not for one second did I have control over that bike. Being a firm believer in getting back in the saddle, I figured I just needed a bigger horse. However, the childhood confidence that I was born to ride was shattered. I didn't tell anyone though, because the moment I voiced my new fear, it would be real.

Just before Mother's Day, my Father found an excuse to get his own Softtail Custom. I got the first ride. It was heaven on earth. The itch that had been there since I was a child was digging in deep, especially since I had fallen in love with a Sportster 883 Low. I had put my name on the list for the Riders Edge course and I could hardly wait to begin, but I couldn't help thinking that I might not pass. I might forever be a back seat rider, so on my birthday I wished for my own bike to ride, and the ability to ride it.

It's easy to forget about fears when you are sitting there picking out new pipes for the bike you just declared as yours. I don't think you could have slapped the smile off of my face that day. The next week was the hardest, waiting for the bike to come home. Even though I still didn't know how to ride, if the bike were home I could at least sit on it. The day it was ready, my Dad got to be the first to drive it, and when some guy shouted out "nice bike" I wanted to stick my head out the window and shout that it was mine. But there was no need to admit to the rest of the world that I don't know how to ride my very own brand new Harley. I was too scared and nervous the first night to ride it. So I waited, after all, what's one more day? I was content to sit, listen to the rumble and smile for the camera phones. Knowing this is a hurtle I must eventually jump, (otherwise this was an incredibly expensive paper weight) I chose the next day to ride.

Dad and I took the bike to the nearest high school and practiced in the parking lot. I tried rolling it to find my balance, but the hills weren't steep enough to get the right speed. Remembering the mini bike incident, I strapped on my helmet, started her up, took a deep breath and drove off. Incident free, I circled the lot at least a dozen times. The next free evening I had, we went straight to the park to practice roads, turns and third gear. Dad followed in my car as I cautiously took turns and tried to relax my shoulders. But going 15 miles an hour on the straights and 5 on the turns with my shoulders hunched up to my ears was no way to ride. Thankfully a cancellation on the hottest weekend of the year allowed me to get into the Riders Edge class sooner then later.

The group I was in was very green. My laps in the parking lot, and slow drive through the park made me the most experienced rider. The class gave me the basics I needed to ride and a sunburn on the bottom of my chin from the reflective surface of the parking lot. Knowing I could do a small figure eight without falling over built up my confidence, but the hundred degree weather still didn't distract me from my nerves when it was time to take the test. Did I mention I was a bad test taker? Thankfully I was one of the two in the class to pass the course. But taking it to the road was another thing.

I didn't want to do it, I wanted to go back to the safety of the parking lot. I needed Dad's encouragement to advance to the next level. He practically forced me to go for a ride with him. I believe the direct quote was, "Wanna go for a ride?" I couldn't admit my fear to Dad, so I had no choice but to say yes. After a pit stop at Hallmark (yes that's right, Hallmark, the perfect place for two doo-raged, fingerless gloved bikers) we traveled the back roads with the most curves and hills. After I was able to relax my shoulders enough to really experience the ride, I was in heaven. Heaven on wheels. Aside from the tangles I later had to rip out of my hair, I loved every min of it.

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